Topic: ART NEWS
The Path of Life Garden
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Corporate America was founded by men and is still dominated by men. As a result, it has many stereotypically masculine qualities. Some of these are great; others are not.
There are many aspects embedded in corporate American culture that are not the best thing for the people in it or for business itself. Your challenge is to first figure out what you need to assimilate to in order to gain credibility, and then change what needs changing. There’s a new phrase in literature on women in leadership—it’s “walking the narrow band”—in other words, women have to work within a narrow range of acceptable behaviors in order to succeed.
If you’re too “nice”, you don’t get what you want. If you’re too “nasty”, you’re seen as a bitch. Many women leave the workforce because they don’t feel like they can be authentic to themselves. And there are many behaviors that could have a positive impact on Corporate America that are not being displayed because of this narrow band. Bad leadership kills companies. When employees follow these bad leaders it instill bad behaviors that are not fixable. Most of us have either experienced or currently work with bosses who are incompetent, tyrannical or vindictive. You may have asked yourself how someone so incompetent ended up in a position of power. Or you may wonder why everyone seems to put up with the tyranny of a volatile and domineering person at the helm. Bad leaders are discriminatory, aggressive and arrogant. They build a world around a self-centered idea of personal greatness that gives them personal license to break, bend and alter moral standards others while holding others to them. By placing themselves on a pedestal above the law, above authority and even above God, bad leaders construct an insular bubble where they must always be right and anyone who suggests otherwise is mercilessly struck down. I needed an art cleanse. I found one.
I arrived to the PAth of Life Garden and no one was there. However, I quickly learned you could still access the garden by paying a $6.00 fee in the common mailbox. The mailbox also had a small pamphlet in it describing the garden. You first go through the “Tunnel of Oblivion” to enter the garden. There is an oddly placed fake bat in the tunnel. So, at this point, you do not know what to expect in the garden. The Tunnel of Oblivion, the darkness representing the beginning of life.
After you walk through the tunnel, there is a small sign pointing and saying, “this way”, so I followed the path. From here one proceeds to the right and finds a small stone emerging from a shallow swale signifying BIRTH. Next, the first steps of childhood lead to a hemlock maze, reflecting a period of ADVENTURE. One has a choice to make here according to the sign, to take the adventurous route. I took more of course. The evergreen maze made me decide which way to go. Left, right, forward, up a hill, etc. There is a life lesson in this maze. The walker finds that lesson and then reaches an amazing bell they can ring the signified their success. Upon successfully mastering the maze, one turns right and finds the HILL OF LEARNING ,where one crosses a series of buried granite stone steps, signifying the milestones reached in school. At the top of the hill one discovers the TREE OF WISDOM , a white oak whose nuts contain the seeds of knowledge. Whose leaves are the lessons dropped from the fall season. I took there for several minutes just relaxing in the circular stones border, it made me feel safe. Before you enter the Tree of Wisdom the poem by Chard di Niord, Tree of Wisdom is posted. READ IT!
Upon descending the hill one finds a circle of Prayer Wheels that can be spun in the spirit of HOPE and wellbeing. This remined me of my time in Tibet, climbing Mount Everest. These types of prayer wheels where located on the way to Mt Everest from Lukla. It brought back such amazing memories of our climb up Everest. The handmade wheels had words of inspiration that made we want to create this wonder at my own home. Beyond the prayer wheels one enters an amphitheater of sculpture that symbolizes a time of CREATIVITY. One was given the opportunity to hear the imaginary music created by these recycled giants.
I then climbed up the hill behind the giant musicians to the gong. This was an additional instrument for the giants, for humans to play. There was a mallet on top of the wood structure that allowed one to create therapeutic sounds of happiness. From here the path travels to the river and you will encounter the experience of UNION, suggested by two granite posts flanking a round millstone. The hole in the millstone represents the mysterious connection that exists between two beings while the mass of the stone creates a sense of separateness. Adjacent to union is the garden of FAMILY, depicted by five large flat stones arranged in a circle. Visitors are welcome to sit in the circle with friends and family to reflect on the loved ones in their lives. I recommend you walk around the trees and internally and externally around the seats. It’s a very therapeutic experience that helps you feel as though you are binding your family together.
After creating a family, you then become a part of a larger COMMUNITY, represented by a multitude of stones arranged in a large circle. When you first look at the structures in the circle, they appear to be just large pieces of burnt wood. Then because of the clarity of behind you have created with this walk in the park, you see the amazing wood carvings that are impeded in each structure. Take time to look at each one. Do not miss the couple kissing near the tree off to the side, they are quite the pair. The individual characteristics of each stone stand for the unique qualities in each of us. Some people find they are spending too much time in community and enter a period of SOLITUDE, expressed in the park as a single stone surrounded by lilac trees and a shade structure. At other times in midlife, one might find themselves experiencing a period of AMBITION, portrayed by a large earthen mound in the middle of the field. Perfect, as I hit my midlife, I decided to begin climbing the 7 summits in the world. Four down three to go. Having climbed to the top of the mound, one can look back and reflect on the first half of their journey. I reflected on all my climbs, training to the large summit climbs, each one just as important.
Continuing upriver, mid-life also brings the first taste of SORROW. In this garden, the frame of a Native American teepee embodies our collective sense of loss. After a time of sorrow, some are lucky enough to find a time for FORGIVENESS, depicted in the park by a stand of bamboo poles reaching for the sky.
The gift of forgiveness is often followed by a period of JOY, symbolized in the park by a garden of blueberries and raspberries for all to share in the summer time. I felt compelled that Joy was not possible unless I walked the path of forgiveness. So, I walked every step of the path created by the blueberry and raspberry trees. This therapeutic path created a strong heart. It was not until then, that I allowed myself to enter the bamboo structure of Joy. I stayed in the structure for some time, thinking of all the joyful moment of my life.
After leaving the garden of berries, the path turns to the left and climbs a gentle hill As one reaches these later stages of life, many people look forward to a period of rest or RESPITE.A hammock and picnic table located in a cool forest overlooking a series of gentle waterfalls provides our traveler with a well-deserved break. I sat on the hammock and meditated for a few moments. I then noticed an amazing field of now covered pumpkins. So I climbed to the down the hill to the field of pumpkins to take some photos.
Turning around, and going up a hill, the garden allows for a period of CONTEMPLATION , and a Buddha is discovered overlooking a stone labyrinth. As old age settles in the path to the center of the labyrinth becomes smooth and level. After pausing at the center of the labyrinth to wish for enlightenment. I took more time to meditate and take notice of the articles left by others on the Grand Buddha, simply amazing. I thought about things going on at work where it seems like everybody in leadership is just looking upward and has a price. I wonder how they sleep at night. Where they come first and could care less about those below them. The truth comes second, everyone below them always having to look to the left and right to safely cross their day like a street. I stop, for a minute and Smile and think, they are not my circus, they are not my monkeys. I only control how I react to their abysmal behaviors. I meditate some more.
The next area of the garden one comes to a stand of large dead maple trees, the garden of DEATH. I stood there outside the area, not entering. For entering the death garden, I thought that would be a bad omen. But as I scanned the periphery, I saw that there were more amazing art sculptures, one resembling a Giacometti. I dropped my fears and bee-lined for the sculpture. I then also noticed like in the Community area of the garden, the sculptures had amazing life to them.
I put my fears of death to rest, surrounded by weeping trees, taking my renewed soul to the garden of REBIRTH, where life begins anew. One gets to sit amongst trees of life that bring a new energy to your being.
As a final gesture, the pilgrim re-enters the tunnel from which life began in the opposite direction. When traveling towards the West, the tunnel represents the Gateway to Eternity. The way you feel when you exit the garden is not the way you felt when you entered. It’s brilliant and I highly suggest you go there; go alone or with a group. You can also camp there. The Connecticut River is adjacent to the garden so in the summer they have boats and activities to fill your day with love and life lessons.
You can visit the garden now, I suggest you go a day where you can make your own footprints in the snow. That adds a whole new level of experience to the garden. When I left the garden, I thought, who made this? It is brilliant.
Terry McDonnell, a child and family therapist from Norwich, Vermont has been working on The Path of Life Garden for the past 16 years. On any given weekend in the Spring, Summer and Fall you will find him working there. Lacking formal training in landscape design or sculpture, his inspiration comes from photographs, books, other artists, gardens and walks in the woods. Without the help of a landscaping crew, he does most of the work by himself or with the help of local contractors, friends and family.
Terry’s desire to build a garden that told the story of life came after visiting one of Europe’s most famous Japanese gardens, The Life of Man. Built in Kildare, Ireland between 1906-1910, The Life of Man symbolizes the journey of a human soul from birth to death. After happening upon The Life of Man, Terry knew he had the perfect use for the 14-acre riverside field he owned in Windsor.
He began the garden in 1997 by planting 30 red oak trees in an arc that mirrored the gentle bend in the adjoining Connecticut River. Later in the first year, the amphitheater of Creativity was sculpted to feature the work of local artist’s and for hosting music festivals. In 1998, he rented a u-haul trailer, picked up 800 bare-root hemlock trees in Pennsylvania and went to work with his nephew creating the maze of Adventure. In 1999, he traveled to Northern California and found the large granite Buddha for Contemplation and the 5-piece, 25 foot tall, driftwood band (Creativity) made from Russian River driftwood. Each year since, new features have been added. There was the Tunnel of Oblivion in 2000, and the mound of Hope with its Tori gates and prayer wheels in 2001. In 2002 he was busy planting the Tree of Wisdom, erecting the 50-foot high bamboo circle representing Forgiveness and adding a ring of tall sugar stones to Birth. In 2003 he devoted to planting blueberries and raspberries in Joy and establishing a shade structure over Solitude. In 2004 he worked with Ria Blaas and Herb Ferris to complete new installations in Community and Creativity.
Today, everyone in the family chips in to help with mowing, weedwacking, planting and coming up with new ideas. Several times a year you will find us camping in Creativity, having a bonfire in front of the band, and going for an early morning swim in the Connecticut River. Every other summer we invite a bunch of friends and have a drumming party in front of the band. The Path of Life is a work in progress. As such, it will never really be completed -- which is just fine with us! We love it, hope you do too, and look forward to seeing you along the path.
The Path of Life Garden is a crafted landscape open to the public in Windsor, Vermont. Visitors experience the story of the great circle of life while traveling through sculptures of varying sizes and materials. Inspired by a famous garden in Europe, these eighteen works of art symbolize the journey from birth to death and beyond. Since its conception in 1997, the garden has grown on its own path, providing space for recreation, relaxation, contemplation and realization; making it a great destination for families looking for fun things to do around Quechee, Woodstock, and Hanover. The path is also home to some of a 5+ mile trail network, groomed in the winter for dogsledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The garden is located in a 14-acre of field of trails, wildflowers and open spaces on the banks of the Connecticut River. There are 18 works of art in the garden.